Dozens protest B.C. vet following alleged animal abuse at dairy farm – Williams Lake Tribune

Dozens gathered outside an Abbotsford veterinary clinic on Saturday, Nov. 13, demanding further regulatory action against the vet and owner of a dairy farm under investigation by the BC SPCA for animal cruelty.

The organizers are further calling for video-monitoring devices to be installed on all commercial farms, arguing the industry is incapable of treating animals humanely.

“This is more of the same old, same old. This is the industry continuing to regulate itself. This is the fox guarding the henhouse,” said Geoff Regier, organizer and animal-rights activist.

The protest at Abbotsford Veterinary Clinic is a response to the release of disturbing footage of farm employees violently abusing cows, allegedly at Cedar Valley Farms, which is co-owned by Dr. Rich Vanderwal.

Regier says Vanderwal has a history of condoning animal abuse at Fraser Valley farms, and the BC College of Veterinarians needs to revoke his licence.

“All vets and Dr. Vanderwal take an oath … He has repeatedly violated his oath,” said Geoff Regier. “This man needs to be held accountable for his blatant disregard of animal welfare.”

He said the positive perception of dog-and-cat veterinarians allow animal-agriculture vets to operate without question in an industry driven by profit and exploitation.

Vanderwal was the active veternarian at Chilliwack Cattle Sales in 2014 when similar footage of abuse led to six men being charged with animal cruelty and the owners being hit with a $300,000 fine.

One of the men was hired by Vanderwal afterwards, and was documented abusing animals again in 2019, according to Regier.

He was also an animal welfare consultant for the Abbotsford Police Department amid animal-abuse protests at Excelsior Hog Farm in 2019, and told police that welfare conditions were being met.

Regier is one of four activists charged with 21 counts of break and enter and criminal mischief in relation to the hog-farm protests.

Cesar Alonso, a former employee of Cedar Valley Farms, said he was fired after he repeatedly tried to report animal abuse to the owners. He has filed a wrongful termination suit.

He said it was his first job in Canada after immigrating from Mexico, and he was shocked to see baby male calves being killed right in front of their mothers, botched killings of adult cows with 22-caliber bullets, beatings and other numerous incidents of brutality.

“Right at the beginning, I started thinking, ‘Is this normal?’ Because I’d never worked in this industry,” Alonso said. “It was unacceptable for me.”

After two years he became a supervisor, and said he immediately started reporting the abuse to owners, who did nothing.

Alonso said he was fired without reason shortly after reporting an employee for beating a cow so badly he thought it was going to be killed.

“Part of my job is to supervise workers … I always called attention, always reported to the owners. Always, always,” he said. “Nothing happens … They don’t care about the animals.”

BC SPCA announced its investigation into Vanderwal’s farm on Oct. 28, after they received some 300 video clips reportedly taken secretly at Cedar Valley Farms.

The BC Milk Marketing Board immediately suspended the dairy licence after an inspection was conducted following BC SPCA’s announcement.

They reinstated the licence on Nov. 12 with mandatory conditions, such as unannounced monthly visits and an independent third-party consultant.

Regier said he was “furious” by the BC Milk Marketing Board’s decision, calling it premature considering the ongoing investigation, but added he wasn’t surprised.

“They’re called the milk marketing board, they have a clear conflict of interest. Their purpose is to promote milk, it’s not to care for animals,” Regier said.

He’s skeptical the board’s mandatory conditions will have any effect, and said it’s against their interests to draw attention to abuse in the industry.

Investigations into commercial farms only account for only a small percentage of BC SPCA’s animal-cruelty investigations, despite farm animals accounting for the vast majority of domestic animals in B.C., Regier said.

“It’s backwards,” he said.

He provided briefing notes from a 2021 meeting between Minister of Agriculture Lana Popham and the BC SPCA, attained through an FOI request. Out of aproximately 8,500 animal cruelty investigations BC SPCA conducts annually, only 10 to 20 relate to enforcement on commercial farms,.

Cedar Valley Farms provided a written statement to The Abbotsford News on Tuesday (Nov. 9), saying they are saddened by the recent events and are working with the agencies involved “to get clarity on the facts of the case.”

“Staff on our farms are our responsibility for continuous training and oversight, and if we discover that animals are not treated with dignity and care in all stages of their life, it is on us to correct these wrongs,” they said.

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Patrick Penner photo.

Patrick Penner photo.

Geoff Regier, organizer and animal rights activist, speaking in front of Abbotsford Veterinary Clinic. He said the BC College of Veterinarians needs to revoke Dr. Rich Vanderwal’s licence. Patrick Penner photo.

Geoff Regier, organizer and animal rights activist, speaking in front of Abbotsford Veterinary Clinic. He said the BC College of Veterinarians needs to revoke Dr. Rich Vanderwal’s licence. Patrick Penner photo.

Patrick Penner photo.

Patrick Penner photo.

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Harvest season is here; motorists remain alert for slow-moving farm equipment – WBIW

Harvest season is here; motorists remain alert for slow-moving farm equipment – WBIW

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I Went To An Alligator Farm, And Here’s Why It Was An Unforgettable Experience

On a recent road trip to Coastal Mississippi from my home near Houston, I traveled by way of St. Tammany Parish in Louisiana. It’s also called Northshore, as in the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain, north of New Orleans.

If you’re imagining live oaks dripping with Spanish moss and historic Creole homes, you’re on the right track.

I had stopped at the Blue Elbow Swamp next to the Texas Welcome Center on Interstate 10 before entering Louisiana. Signs along the marsh’s boardwalk warned of American alligator crossings and instructed me to give them 6 feet of space should I encounter any. I figured that if I saw an alligator on the walkway, I’d double that distance and get the heck out of there as fast as my feet would take me.

And I was still in Texas.

Louisiana has more alligators than all the other states combined. I decided that, given the good chance I would see an alligator on the hikes I planned to take through the state’s parks, I had better learn more about them. Knowledge is power, or so they say.

After reviewing alligator farm tours, I chose the Insta-Gator Ranch & Hatchery in Covington, Louisiana, because of its great reviews and commitment to safe social-distancing practices and smaller group sizes. I won’t keep you in suspense — it was a fantastic, fun, and educational tour. Here’s why it was an unforgettable experience.

Alex Price with an alligator.
Teresa Otto

I Got An Education 

My tour began with a talk by Alex Price, who has worked at Insta-Gator for 22 years. This interactive program had everyone in the group asking questions and tossing out wild guesses. Alex did a great job keeping participants of all ages engaged — from the 5-year-old boy who seemed to be having his best day ever to the 80-something-year-old woman who was equally impressed but more subdued.

As a species, the American alligator has been around about 37 million years. Alligator hunting in Louisiana is documented as far back as the early 1800s. After the number of animals in the wild declined in the 1950s to an estimated 150,000 alligators in the wetlands, Louisiana banned hunting from 1962 until 1972. Habitat loss had added to the animals’ falling numbers.

Alligator nest with eggs, Insta-Gator Ranch.
Insta-Gator Ranch

I Learned About Conservation

Alligator ranching began in Louisiana in 1986, with the Insta-Gator Ranch & Hatchery opening in 1989. While the hunting ban increased the number of wild alligators to about 500,000, it wasn’t until ranches began harvesting, hatching, and releasing alligators that alligator numbers improved enough for the animals to be taken off the endangered species list.

Alligator ranches like Insta-Gator harvest eggs from the wild (a female alligator lays 20 to 60 eggs in her nest in June), incubate and hatch the eggs, and release about 10 percent of the animals back into the wild when they are around 4 feet long. Of the alligators that hatch in the wild, only about 6 to 8 percent survive to reach that length. The little guys have lots of predators, including bigger alligators.

Alligator farming, along with the state’s measures to preserve alligator habitat, has boosted the wild alligator population to roughly three million. Alligator hunting and farming, for meat and their hides, is a $50 million industry for Louisiana.

Alligator hatchling, Insta-Gator Ranch.
Insta-Gator Ranch

I Found Out That I Can Be A Hatchling’s Mom

Alex told our tour group about his experience harvesting alligator eggs. Once the eggs are back at the hatchery, they are incubated. If you visit in August or early September, you can hatch an egg. 

The owner, John Price, told me that each person is given an egg to hatch, but each family has only one egg at a time so that everyone in the party can watch the birth. The alligator may hatch a second later or 20 minutes later. The hatchling may need a little encouragement, like tapping on the shell or help with opening the tough membrane. Some visitors are surprised that it’s a messy, gooey experience.

You can hold your baby alligator and take it for its first swim in the hatchery’s pool.

Pro Tip: Hatching typically begins August 8 and continues until September 6, peaking on August 22. If your trip to Northshore coincides with these dates, book a hatching experience. It’s at the top of my list for my return trip.

Alligator at Insta-Gator Ranch in Louisiana.
Teresa Otto

I Touched An Alligator

At Insta-Gator, you can have a hands-on experience at any time of the year. Alex’s talk on alligators covered Anatomy 101 — with a close look at a 4-foot-long alligator’s third eyelid, ears, and teeth. Their underbellies are surprisingly smooth, and their backs are covered with armored plates of bone under skin. 

As an adult, this alligator would be over 10 feet long and weigh about 800 pounds. He could run about 12 miles per hour for a short distance and swim about 20 miles per hour. If we met on a trail, I would want my top speed to be at least 13 miles per hour!

We learned that alligators are opportunistic feeders. In the wild, they lie in wait for prey with just their nostrils and eyes above the surface of the water. They eat birds, turtles, small mammals, and fish that get close enough to their powerful jaws to be swallowed whole. 

Alex said I wouldn’t be on an alligator’s menu. I was already feeling better about my chances of survival should I meet an alligator in the wild, which I did the very next day.

Alligator in Insta-Gator's barn, Louisiana.
Teresa Otto

I Caught An Alligator

Our tour continued with a trip to the barn to feed alligators a few marshmallows. The walk through the barn started with 2-foot-long alligators and ended with ones that were five or six years old and 8 feet long.

After touring the barn, you can opt to have two more up-close alligator experiences. With “Hold A Gator,” you’re photographed with a 4-foot-long alligator in your lap. 

The “Catch Alligators!” add-on allows you to catch and hold a smaller alligator (anywhere from 9 inches to 3 feet long depending on the time of year you visit) from a counter-height pool. No stooping over required. This was the highlight.

Pro Tip: These add-ons are available for a small extra fee when you book your tour.

Pro Tips

Insta-Gator talks about alligators from “hatchling to handbag.” If you’d like more than a photo of your visit, you’re in luck. With 10 percent of the alligators being released back into the wild after hatching at the ranch and about 2,000 others remaining in the barns for visitors to see, the rest are harvested for meat and leather.

The gift shop is the place to buy quality U.S.-tanned leather goods produced from alligators farmed in the heart of Cajun Country.

The educational part of the tour is outdoors, but it’s covered, and there are benches. The barns are a short walk away. All facilities are wheelchair accessible. Allow about 1.5 hours for your visit, not including a hatching experience.

For more days trips from New Orleans, see this page.

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Tips for spring manure application | Farm Forum

Spring is here! While we all hope it sticks around, it probably has some people thinking about getting manure applied before planting. While you may already have a plan for where and how you want to apply the manure, here are some other tips to consider before getting started.

Prepare your equipment and monitor it through the application season

Whether you are pumping liquid manure or loading solid manure, going through your equipment now is important for avoiding spills or downtime when it is “go time.” For liquid systems, how did your hoses hold up over the winter? Are the pumps ready to go? For solid spreaders, are the beaters worn down? Is there slack in the apron chain that should be adjusted? For any system that needs to travel on the road, are your signals and brake lights working? During heavy use, keep monitoring these things to watch for wear and tear that can be fixed before it becomes a problem.

Collect a manure sample and send it for a nutrient analysis

Manure is a valuable nutrient source for crops. Knowing the nutrient content can help you maximize its use and get the best bang for your buck. Collecting a manure sample when the manure is well mixed is ideal. This could be after liquid manure has been agitated or during loading of solid manure. Either way, collecting several smaller samples during the loading process and mixing them well before sending to a lab is the preferred method. Choose a clean, plastic bottle with a wide opening and tight lid to ship the manure to the lab; do not use glass! It turns out the post office isn’t happy when manure sample bottles break in transit.

What tests should you choose? At a minimum we suggest total nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, though ammonium content can also help you understand the first-year nitrogen fertilizer value of the manure. If you are interested in getting secondary and micronutrients tested in the manure, too, many laboratories offer these services. Look for laboratories that participate in the Manure Analysis Proficiency Program or the Certified Manure Testing Program. Both programs are coordinated by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and help laboratories refine their manure analysis techniques to provide more reliable results.

Consider options for reducing soil compaction

Soil compaction during spring manure application is a concern. The first and main thing you can do to reduce this issue is stay off wet fields if at all possible!

The second thing to consider is tire size on your equipment. For example, say you have a 6,000-gallon tanker that weighs 55,000 pounds when full. Tires that are 20 x 20 on 2 axles on this tanker will likely have to be inflated to 32 PSI, while 28.1 x 26 tires on 2 axles will be able to be inflated at 16.5 PSI. To minimize compaction, you want ideally to be around 10 PSI when in the field. Speaking of tires, making sure they are properly inflated is another key tip! Road inflation is usually at a much higher PSI than is needed in a field and is sometimes overlooked when entering a field.

Another consideration is controlling traffic patterns in the field as much as possible. The first pass of a heavy implement usually causes 80% of the compaction, so limiting equipment to the same areas can minimize the overall compaction in the field.

And finally, a healthy soil with good structure can resist compaction! Consider using cover crops and minimizing tillage to build up soil structure. Check out the Minnesota Office of Soil Health for tips on getting started at

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